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Think Visibility 2010 - Live blogging
Written by David Towers   

Today I am attending Think Visibility 2010 in Leeds and will be blogging live from the event.

Think Visibility is a conference for people working in online marketing and covers topics like SEO, viral marketing, conversion optimisation and affiliates. To find out more about ThinkVis visit the ThinkVisibility website:

Think Visibility

There is a great line up of speakers at the conference today. These are the sessions that I will be attending and live blogging from:

Local SEO strategies by Tom Critchlow

  • This presentation is going to be about Google Local
  • Why should you care about Google Local?
    • You should care because Google Local results have taken over search results in Google for phrases like "Hotel London" but also more generic terms like "Hypnosis"
    • These Google Local listings can drive a serious amount of traffic (example given)
    • David Mihm s Google Local Ranking factors are more complete than Rand Fishkins. That said these are the most important Google Local Ranking factors:

1. Verified listings

  • The best way to do Google Local is to claim your local listing: This can be done manually, one by one.
  • When you verify the listing you will have control over the listing.
  • However, a lot of business have more than one location e.g. A nationwide Toy store. How do they get all their properties added?
  • You can do a bulk upload of addresses within an XML file. The problem with this is that these listing are not verified and as such are open to abuse and open to being changed by people.
  • Google have worked hard on a "Bulk Upload Whitelist". Once you have uploaded the bulk list you can get these manually verified. This is a great way of manually verifying a large number of locations
  • The worst thing you can do is have unverified listings which are typically pulled in through a local provider like yelp or Tripadvisor.
  • If you dont verify an upload of data, someone else can edit the local listings. So you should verify the listing!
  • Uploading listings can become complex when trying to upload different international locations. When doing this:
    • Upload separate bulk upload files, one for each country
    • Use the country selection drop-down to change country each time
    • Use a unique store code for each listing in your upload files
  • A note for when bulk uploading through XML:
    • Avoid capitalisation (e.g. NATO)
    • Odd phone number formatting
    • URLS in the description field
    • Some words are stripped out automatically (e.g speed)

2. Reviews

  • Reviews used to have to come through a trusted review website like Tripadvisor etc.
  • This is not however the case now as Google pulls in reviews through websites. Mircoformats (e.g. star ratings etc) will be used to help pull in relevant reviews.
  • The number of reviews is more important than the rating, although this is starting to change.
  • The quality of the website which holds the review is starting to become more important (e.g. Yelp and Tripadvisor are trusted)

3. Citations

  • Citations will be the address and phone number of the local listings. Getting a good number of citations is an important ranking factor in Google Local.
  • Good way of getting citations is to include address and phone number on other websites (Here are Distilled s citations. Here are two example of these citations Distilled on SEOmoz marketplace and on A Dram in Time).
  • How do see what your citations are?
    • Citations are shown by "More" in the Google Local listing and this is basically just a list of many of the citations of the local listings are made. (It is worthwhile harvesting competitor lists).

4. Distance to centre

  • Not much you can do to change this unfortunately!
  • Google says this isnt very important, but it is a ranking factor.

5. Categories

  • Can add up to 5.
  • Use keywords. Custom values are allowed, however if you have the choice, use a listing that Google already has within there.
  • Analyse competitors before you add your own categories.

Advanced ranking factors

Tom doesnt have a lot of evidence for these, however believes these will become more important in the future"¦

  • User generated mentions
  • Sentiment
  • Citation quality

Example of Google Local listing

SEOmoz before

  • They hadnt claimed their listing.
  • There were 3 different listings: Google doesnt know which one to trust.
  • Category: "Marketing Consultant" wasnt a good listing

SEOmoz after

  • Verified listing.
  • Opening hours.
  • Duplicated removed.
  • Appropriate categories were used.

Q&A nuggets

  • Dont keyword stuff your titles: categories are used for understanding the semantics of the listing. Keyword stuffing in the title could actually be a negative ranking factor. Titles of the Google Local listing are also important for bringing in the appropriate citations, so make sure they are accurate!

Further reading

SEO in practice by Judith Lewis

  • "At my feet is the real star of all my talks: chocolate" - Judith loves chocolate!
  • This is the outline of the talk:
    • SEO 201
    • Things in avoid in SEO
    • What is next in SEO
  • Judith has asked that this presentation is not published online, so I will not be live blogging from this session. All the juicy SEO secrets will stay within the walls of this conference...

Conversion rate tips and tricks by Stephen Pavlovich

  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO), buy one get one free! - What is in for me? That is what you need to consider in conversion rate optimisation!
  • Stephen started out doing SEO  few years ago and then moved over to PPC: Now he focuses on conversion rates. Stephen runs Conversion Factory.
  • CRO is finding out why visitors arent converting and fixing it! It is that simple!
  • CRO isnt:
    • Split testing the colour of your buttons (unless you really want to).
    • Following best-practice (best-practices dont really exist) and guesswork.
    • Based on misleading metrics, the only thing that matters is money.
  • Why does CRO really matters:
    • With it, you can make more money.
    • Increase advertising spend.
    • Increase market share.

Conversion optimisation step by step

Research and analysis (This is really important)

  • Become the customer - If you are selling the product, you should become the customer and order the product like a customer would. Use video recording software, screenshot different stages. Dont just stick to online either, what does the packaging etc look like? Conversion rate optimisation includes repeat buyers and as a result offline interaction is very important.
  • Set up funnels in Google Analytics - Where are people dropping off in the buying funnel? This will show you where you can get quick wins straight away.
  • Use other analytics packages - e.g. Crazy Egg which shows heat-maps (make sure you turn on clicks on active elements - this is turned off by default, but turn it on! It shows if people are clicking on something which actually isnt a button).
  • Do five usability tests - You cannot leave this out of any process. This is easy with usertesting.com or whatusersdo.com- they will do video sessions of the website for $29! Watching the website through users eyes will help you see the site as users do and thus help you understand any issues with the site.
  • Survey your customers - You can do this through surveymonkey.com. Find if they had any objections before ordering your product.
  • Talk to your sales staff - Find out what questions people are asking. What doubts and concerns do they have?


  • Create a list of all objections and issues - This is data you should be gathering throughout research from surveys, sales staff etc. Resolving these objections will help you double your conversion rate overnight.
  • Brainstorm ways to overcome them - Find ways to overcome problems, and write them in a simple way on your website.
  • Look for hidden opportunities - LoveFilm are extremely good at conversion rate optimisation: If you start the process of signing up and then drop out, when you return to the homepage another time, you will be forwarded to the sign up form. Posterous.com have solved the issue of forms. Front load the difficult questions at the start e.g. email address so that you can get follow up with emails they drop off.
  • Prioritise the actions.

Development and testing

  • Develop the variation and take screenshots - make sure you log all the changes that you make so that you can learn from them in the future.
  • Set up Crazy Egg on variations.
  • Test using Google Website Optimiser or other testing software.

Review and develop

  • Log the results and screenshots.
  • Analyse the results (big losses are just as important as big wins). - Identify the element that increased or decreased wins so you can develop it further.
  • If you got a win, can it be developed further? - Quick and dirty tests can useful because you can get a feel for what works and then improve upon it.
  • If you got a win, can it be applied to other parts of the funnel?

Repeat: do it all again!

  • Research and analysis
  • Solutions
  • Development and testing
  • Review and develop

Three essential habits for successful conversion rate optimisation

These are things you should be doing daily to increase conversion rates:

Build up a swipe file

  • Screenshot good examples of ads, emails, websites: Print screen is your friend!
  • Take photos of offline banners and ads because these can be useful.
  • Junk mail is a great source of inspiration for optimisation.

Everyone else is an idiot: Test everything!

  • Just because it worked for someone else, doesnt mean it will for you.
  • Best practice doesnt really exist!
  • Steal ideas and test them to see how they work for you.
  • Dont worry about your competitors conversion rates. Your conversion rate is only as good as the traffic rate you are getting. Focus on your own conversion rates.

Love your cults

  • Pyschology (cults and brainwashers) - Dangerous persuaders (available for free online), Chapter 3 - How beliefs are manipulated shows the principles of persuasion taken to an extreme.
  • Copywriting - A good book is the ultimate sales letter by Dan Kennedy.
  • Direct-response advertisers - Junk mail that you get through the post are quite a good place for inspiration.
  • Design from competitors: Are they split testing? See what they are split testing.

NB: For ThinkVisibility conference goers, Stephen has made some resources available on ConversionFactory.com.

Building a successful presence for your website in social news by Andrew Burnett

  • Is it easy? Can you just make a new Wordpress site, create some content, create stumble, digg, reddit account and then hit the front-page of these networks! No! Here are 2 reasons why that doesnt work:
    1. Spamming social news sites is antisocial!
    2. Your site and content FAILS!

First of all, get the basics of your site and content right:

  • Does it conform to TOS and TOU of Stumble, Digg and Reddit? You need to play by the rules otherwise you will get banned!
  • Does your site look the part? You need to stand out! Dont just use another free WP theme that everyone else uses!
  • Is your site s content original?
  • Does your content inspire endorsement? It needs to not only be worthy of endorsement but also inspire endorsement!
  • Does your content fit your site s niche? E.g. Mint.com use infographics to good effect!
  • Is your content presented aesthetically?
    • Use bullets, images, videos, sub-headers, good font sizes etc.
    • Users are lazy, so make sure people can digest information quickly and easily.
  • Does your content inform, entertain or amaze?

Make your site attractive for social news?

  • Is it easy to submit/vote your content on your website?
    • Have a strategy, have buttons.
  • Will social news traffic disturb your normal audience?
    • Do your current reader use social news?
  • Does your site allow itself to be framed? This is particularly important for Digg. if your site does break out of a frame, make sure you have buttons on there to enable voting.
  • Are there plenty of "webbites" in your content that can be easily taken of your content that other sites can take out and use on their sites? For most sites its possible to provide snippets for other sites to use.

Showing off your best bits!

  • Do you display other posts/articles to readers?
    • Can you display related posts? Can you display "golden-posts" "link-bait"?
  • How do you present other posts/articles? Are your related posts linked with attention grabbing posts?
    • Dont use just a text link, use thumbnails as well.
  • Is it obvious that you consistently awesome content?
    • Will social new users see other content that they would like to endorse?

Good ideas: Copy ideas that work!

  • Put social news buttons at the top of content and at the bottom of the content.
  • Put featured golden post/link-bait content at the top of your site that scrolls through which will encourage users to browse through other content.
  • Use thumbnails in related posts.
  • Put your RSS feed subscribe links in a visible place on the site.
  • The BBC do it well, the Daily Telegraph do it well

The possible

  • WP-greetbox - You can show a message to someone based upon where they have come from. Put your link-bait/golden-posts within the greet-box. E.g. "Hi Digg user, thanks for visiting, here are some other fantastic posts"¦".
  • Are all your posts "golden"?
    • Display links to other "golden" posts to Social News users.
  • Are you active on Social News?
    • Say hi to others from the same Social News site you are active on. If you are active, say hi to people when they come to your site from Stumbleupon or Digg.
  • If you do it right, you can get 1000 s of visitors.

Take away: Trak.ly

  • Trak.ly - A bias towards diggs, but shows how your submissions are doing, facebook comments and Twitter. It is free, find out more here.

Q&A nuggets

  • Digg and Reddit are good for instant traffic. Stumbleupon is good for sending traffic over a period of time. Facebook is getting bigger all the time. Twitter wont send as much volume as Digg, Reddit or Stumble, but it can provide on-going traffic as content gets shared around. Yahoo Buzz can send good traffic if something stays on front page for a while.
  • 2leep can send a lot of traffic, but you dont have control over the thumbnails that it puts on your site. As a result if you want traffic 2leep is good. If you want control over the content on your site, 2leep wont be for you.
  • Delicious isnt as much a community as Digg, Reddit and Stumbleupon but can send a lot of traffic if you hit the front-page.

Making more hours with outsourcing and automation by Al Carlton

Why outsource?

  • Limited hours in the day, if you outsource you can have more than that!
  • Do what you are good at!
  • Do what you enjoy!
  • Dont create yourself a new job!

What to outsource?

  • Domestic chores - washing, ironing, cleaning, gardening, car washing, presentation making.
  • Content creation - we can all create content but it is time consuming! Al has a team of 6 content writers.
  • SEO - Link building
  • Design
  • Coding
  • Professional services - accountants, legal, payroll etc.

Outsourcing content generation

  • Advertise on forums like Digitalpoint. You can have some success but it takes time to find good ones.
  • Problogger job board is very good.
  • Students - Students are great because they always need beer money so they are cheap.
  • Advertise on the site itself.
  • Or use a content generation service.

Outsourcing SEO

  • Link-building
  • Viral campaigns
  • SEO companies

Outsourcing design

  • 99designs.com is great because people will design.
  • Forums like sitepoint.com or digitalpoint.com.

Outsourcing coding

  • Advertise on forums
  • Rentacoder
  • Scriptlance etc.

Virtual assistants

  • They will do anything for you online or over the telephone.
  • They will research, filter emails, conduct price comparisons etc.

How can I find the right people?

  • Tweet about what you need doing? E.g. "I need a logo design created".
  • Ask people what content writers they use.


  • The more common or complex task the more beneficial it is to outsource.
  • Make sure you enable Akismet, reCAPTCHA and have automated backups enabled.
  • Create an automated tool which tags up affiliate links. Install the script on all your sites such as WordPress, Forums etc. 
  • Site monitoring: Use a service like hyperspin.com - they will text you if your website goes down. Or they can get it to tell your webhost, so that they have to deal with it!
  • In Gmail, create a canned response, auto forwards to writers, archives and labelling of backups.

Advice on content creation

  • Go for the long tail rather than short tail.
  • You need to have a balance between quality content and quantity of content.

When the BBC met SEO by John O'Donovan

  • It is not about SEO... If you are traffic is based around SEO, then you have already started at the wrong place. Search engines are not the only horse! It is all about reach.
  • Reach should define a holistic approach. There are lots of factors which will make a difference at driving traffic to your site, and you should work on all of things as opposed to simply one.

Why did the BBC change their approach to headlines?

  • Why are headlines important? Headlines bring people in to sites.
  • The sun reported "Super Caley go ballistic Celtic are atrocious" - Would this headline bring the right traffic to the website? Probably not.
  • Headlines can be misleading, but when they are, they can drive a lot of traffic.
  • What the story is about should go at the front of the title: Think about what people are searching before when writing the story.
  • The Huffington Post tests headlines using A/B testing, which ever is the most popular headline stays.
  • Jakob Nielsen said the BBC headlines are good, but could be improved because they are restricted to 33 characters. The headlines have now been increased to 55 characters (This fits in well with the number of characters Google will display before truncating in the search engine results pages).
  • But it is not just a matter of getting on to the results pages, it is also about being clear when you are there.
  • When the BBC made changes to the headlines, there was a 10% increases in the number of site visits coming to the BBC website from the search engines within the UK. Outside of the UK, there was more than a 20% increase of site visits coming from the Search Engines.

What do the numbers tell us?

  • Only 15-20% of traffic comes from Search Engines to BBC News and Sport. So where does the rest of the search engine traffic come from?

    • Syndication drives a lot of traffic. Syndication is through widgets (e.g. the BBC iGoogle widget has 2 million users), RSS feed subscribers etc.
    • You should make it as easy as possible for people link to you.
    • Social media as a total is quite mall, but there has been a huge growth in traffic from Twitter and Facebook.
  • The BBC power live events through social media: e.g. "Live Six Nations" games are provided on live video streams and journalists provide new updates every minute.

Dont forget the obvious when optimising your site

  • Link to yourself with a consistent clear vocabulary
  • Page structure matters
  • Get some good stats which should help inform you what content works on the site

Looking to the linked data future

  • Semantic web is about structuring content in a way which can can be better understood by search engines so that there isnt confusion between Turkey: the food or the country.
  • What did the BBC do to own the term "tiger" and "lion"? The Tiger and Lion pages on the BBC website includes unique content on the BBC website about Tiger and Lions, snippets from Wikipedia and there are links to other internal pages on the BBC website which reference Tigers or Lions. Additionally, the BBC links out to other quality content pages. So basically, the BBC is creating a quality hub about the topic which is why the BBC website is ranking so highly for these authority terms.


  • Dont optimise too much. You would be better off spending that time writing better content.
  • Write great headlines, because that is a key entry point.

Q&A nuggets

  • One of the audience state "You have the easiest SEO job in Britain!" I totally agree for this, in my opinion the BBC could rank #1 for more-a-less anything.
  • Google News is a good source of traffic for breaking news.
  • There are two sections of links on the BBC news website:
    • "Editorial links" - These are added by BBC journalists and are verified. The links need to be very relevant, and there is criteria that the journalists adhere to such as whether they are independent etc.
    • "From other news sites" - Links are pulled in from around 4000 sources.

Comments (12)Add Comment
Andrew Burnett
March 13, 2010
Votes: +2

Thanks for the write up David! Great meeting you in person too!!

Carla Marshall
March 13, 2010
Votes: +2

Excellent notes - you covered the afternoon presentations I missed as I was listening to other speakers so this is much appreciated.

David Towers
David Towers
March 13, 2010
Votes: +0

@Andrew Burnett - You're welcome. Your presentation was really excellent, so I'm glad I have the notes.

@Carla - Happy you've found these notes useful!

Kenny goodman
March 14, 2010
Votes: +0

Awesome stuff. I don't actually ever need to attend any conferences you attend from now on. I will just follow your blog the following day :-)

March 14, 2010
Votes: +0

Hello David, thanks for putting this together. I missed the social news by Andrew, so its great to catch up with your help. Thanks Mally

Al Fox
March 15, 2010
Votes: +0

As someone who foolishly left it too late to get a ticket for ThinkVis, I am very grateful to you for doing this. Interesting stuff. Thanks David. Al

Alex Moss
March 15, 2010
Votes: +0

Only 3453 words? Not enough detail David!

May 27, 2010
Votes: +0

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Votes: +0

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